Friday, 21 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! Peace on Earth by U2. I'll be back on January 2!

Only a couple of days till Christmas! We're actually celebrating our main Christmas on Christmas Eve as a daughter is travelling on Christmas Day -- this effectively means two Christmas Days to prepare for.

Tonight things kick off with family members arriving to fill the guest rooms at the, er, Beach Hotel here at Peregian Beach. It's been like living in a sauna for quite awhile now and the swimming pool has been taking a thrashing between house cleaning, cooking, shopping. Thankfully, we are promised cooler weather for Christmas! At the moment I couldn't imagine cooking a hot Christmas dinner - we'll just have to suffer prawns and salads followed by Toblerone Cheesecake and home-made macarons! Pity us!

I go into this festive season remembering those who haven't had such a happy lead in to Christmas. I was so relieved to see that Nas Dean and her lovely husband Ragesh are safe there in Nadi, in their home where we stayed in July/August. Cyclone Evan wasn't kind. Nadi will be without electricity and water for a time, I believe. Those in Samoa are in the midst of a huge cleanup after Cyclone Evan, too. The devastation is worse than in the quite recent tsunami, poor people. But on the bright side, the US, NZ and Australia and probably other countries have been quick to offer aid to both Samoa and/or Fiji. I know planes full of emergency supplies have been leaving Australia for Nadi.

Nas is still smiling because they were able to fire up the generator so she could  keep blogging, lol!

It is sad that there are those living and dying in strife-torn countries too. Children being blown up by land mines in Afghanistan, aid workers shot dead in Pakistan, and civil war in Syria, unrest in many other countries. What can you do?

Hope and pray for Peace on Earth. here are the lyrics to one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands -- U2...

Heaven on Earth, we need it now
I'm sick of all of this hanging around
Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain
I'm sick of hearing again and again
That there's gonna be peace on Earth

Where I grew up there weren't many trees
Where there was we'd tear them down
And use them on our enemies
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you

And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you
And it's already gone too far
You say that if you go in hard
You won't get hurt

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

No whos or whys
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth

She never got to say goodbye
To see the colour in his eyes
Now he's in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They're reading names out over the radio
All the folks the rest of us won't get to know
Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann, and Breda
Their lives are bigger than any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus and the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won't rhyme
So what's it worth
This peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

  I will be on blog break until January 2nd, when I will be back with a post for IWSG. Until then, I'll be enjoying a family Christmas and continuing to write for three hours every morning before most of the family are awake. Naturally, I'll steal some time to check out the blogs!

So to all my lovely followers and casual visitors -- Happy Christmas!! See you in the New Year!! Be safe!!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - Flashback - Cyclone - Christmas Day - 1974

This is my second entry in the Holiday Spirit blogfest -- flash fiction this time. Cyclones are a fact of life in the Pacific during the summertime. Australia has her fair share, but the current cyclone is to the north. As Samoa and Fiji are battered by Cyclone Evan, my story for the blogfest is completely relevant. As Wellington lawyer Janet Mason says right now from Lautoka (a coastal town not far from Nadi) --  the weather is extreme and empty house has flown through the air and landed beside hers. "Another house has completely disintegrated, its roof is in the trees." Debris is everywhere and much of it is flying through the air. "Everything is going, all the trees are being destroyed, there will be nothing left."
In her own home the roof was coming off and she was losing windows. "It's really bad, it never stops. The wind is howling so strong and it is raining, except the wind is so strong you cannot see the rain.”

Damage to Darwin  



Dawn peeps over the horizon, like a shy child coming late to a birthday party. Dawn’s light reveals crepe paper streamers—red and green dye trickling like blood, swaying nonchalantly in the morning breeze. Gold tinsel, ripped to tatters, is choking fallen timbers that lie on the soil like fallen soldiers. Balloons bobble and bounce across the streets—having a party all of their own—popped by exposed nails or sizzling electric wires that snake along the ground looking for someone to bite. Christmas presents lie spurned and broken like unwanted toys from the birthday child’s gift table.
Humans enter the dangerous landscape, looking as shell shocked as survivors of a wartime bombing raid. Puzzled—disorientated—stepping over a carpet of broken glass—dodging downed power poles—lifting twisted galvanized roofing, making sure no-one lies wounded beneath.
Houses that once stood proudly on stilts are lying crumpled in backyards, fallen on remnants of Christmas Eve barbeques. Odd sights like a car bonnet peep like a child playing hide and seek from under a pile of cement blocks. Rectangles of timber that once housed glass louvers gape emptily, propped like lazy drunkards against walls. The few trees still standing offer denuded fingers to the sky as if in surrender—battle over—battle lost.
Total devastation.
Mandy pulls herself from underneath the mattress that had landed on top of her during the long night.
The night—the darkness—the fear.
No lights—no radio—total terror.
She hurts. Her chest is crushed—her breathing labored—she cannot move any further.
 When will help come? The hideous sound of the wind blowing in from the sea is her only companion. She hears glass shattering, streetlights popping, neighbours screaming.
The long night is over. Dawn is breaking. It’s Christmas Day. Help will come, God willing.



Cyclone Tracy was not a fictional event. It struck on Christmas Eve, 1974,  practically destroying the city of Darwin. Darwin has been rebuilt and is today a thriving tropical city, the northern gateway to Australia. My account of events is of course, purely fictional, and based on my study of the event.

This is not the cheeriest Christmas story, but I hope it helps us to remember those less fortunate --whether affected by natural or man-made disasters -- as we approach the holiday season.

I hope your Christmas is wonderful!

Thanks for reading. Perhaps you have a story...fact or'd like to share. 

get the InLinkz code

Friday, 14 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - entry No 1 - RECIPE - Milk and White Chocolate Macarons

Don't you just love walking around Farmer's Markets? Soon after I moved to Brisbane, a Farmer's Market opened in Brisbane Square, in the heart of the city, only a few short minutes from my apartment. Every Wednesday morning I filled my recycled shopping bags with fresh produce, and, er, fresh French treats.

There is a large population of French people in Brisbane and who does food quite as well? I was in French heaven when I stumbled on Monsieur Macaron, a purveyor of French treats, but pride of place, French Macarons (no, it doesn't have a double 'o'). I was their first customer and won a regular supply for awhile--bliss. I've tasted many a macaron in Paris, and these were every bit as good, lucky Brisbane! 

The macaron, thought to have been created in a convent in France in 1791, is two miniature meringue morsels filled with buttercream, jam, or ganache. Especially difficult to make, the perfect macaron should be like an eggshell on the outside and soft and chewy inside. 

Monsieur Macaron did the Aussie thing and soon added to his traditional flavours of lavender, pistachio, champagne--macarons with an Aussie flavour--passionfruit, lemon and basil (gorgeous!) For years now my once-a-week-treat has been 3 small macarons of various flavours--coconut being my all-time favourite.

Unfortunately, like all good things, they come to an end. The macarons just weren't tasing as swoon-worthy any more. Something was different. The owners finally admitted that they had employed a new chef. The macarons were just too dry, but it appears no one else was complaining, so they continue to sell less-than-perfect (to me) macarons. What to do?

I always prefer to make my own food rather than buy it, but only if I can make it better. Now I've decided I won't get mad, I'll get even. 

Come Christmas, I cook up a storm to rival the thunderstorms that will be cracking along most afternoons after a very hot day. I've already tried my hotcakes, crispy bacon, maple syrup, raspberries and ice cream (definitely American!) breakfast on the family to rave reviews, so now I'm going to fiddle in the kitchen and produce the best macarons they've ever had. And...I'm going to share the recipe with you. 

I wouldn't recommend eating these sugar-laden treats very often. They must be savoured with caution and followed by a couple of kilometres run along the beach. 

All ingredients are based on Australian product names, measurements and terms. I'm sure you can adjust...

Milk and White Chocolate Macarons


1½ cups icing sugar
½ cup blanched almonds
¼ cup Cadbury Bournville Cocoa powder
3 egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup caster sugar

80g Cadbury White Chocolate Melts
30g unsalted butter
100g Philadelphia Original Spreadable Cream Cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar, extra, sifted


1.      Combine icing sugar, almonds and cocoa in a food processor and process until superfine. Sift and remove any coarse pieces of almond.
2.      Beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding the sugar, just until dissolved.
3.      Stir one third of the almond mixture into the meringue and then fold in the remaining mixture until just combined. Spoon or pipe 3cm rounds onto paper lined trays, allowing 2-3cm between each for spreading. Use a wet finger to pat down any tips. Stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or until macarons form a light crust.
4.      Bake in a slow over - 150°C for 22-28 minutes or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely on trays.

5.      Combine chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Beat together the Philly cream cheese and extra icing sugar then beat in the chocolate mixture. Chill until firm enough to spread.
6.      To assemble:: Spread chocolate filling onto 15 macarons and top with remaining halves, pressing together gently. Serve immediately. (They will keep up to a week in the fridge, but lose heaps of flavour.)

Makes 30.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Level of fiddleability: High–recipe must be followed carefully or you will be disappointed
Calories: best left unsaid.

I hope you enjoyed reading my little story and recipe. Do you have one to share?

This is my entry for RFWers' Holiday Spirit Blogfest. Add your name to the list below if/when you have an entry to share...

get the InLinkz code

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - you can sign up here! Your fiction, non-fiction, recipes, your photos - share your holidays with us!

get the InLinkz code

I hope you'll join in the Holiday Spirit and post your entry! Can't wait to read them all!

And I'll leave you with a beautiful photo of a parrot I took on a recent trip to O'Reilly's, a lovely mountain in the hinterland of the Gold Coast.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Aussie author Jennifer St George shares 5 tips on revolutionising our writing! Kittie Howard launches Rings of Trust!

Hello all who have come by today!

Today I'm hosting Aussie author, Jennifer St George, who is on a promo tour for her novel, The Convenient Bride, published by Destiny Romance. Jennifer has some awesome tips to share to revolution our writing. We can always learn a little more about our craft.

Over to you Jennifer: 

Five Things That Revolutionized my Writing
Recently I developed a workshop concept with my fellow Destiny Romance author Louise Reynolds for the 2013 RWA conference to be held in Fremantle, WA in 2013. It made me think about the key concepts or ah ha moments that changed my writing for the better.  These are my top five: 
1. Getting My Writing Style Right!
I’m a planner.  Always have been but my writing style was true ‘pantser’.  It didn’t feel right, but I didn’t know how to fix it.  First Draft in Thirty Days by Karen Wiesner gave me the keys to unlocking the natural planner in me.  I credit this craft book with enabling me to write much more efficiently. 
2. I Want to be Just Like Her!
I ventured into my first RWA conference in Brisbane a few years ago and didn’t know a soul.  At the Awards Dinner, I watched as unstoppable Kylie Griffin scooped award after award.  I thought, I want to be just like her.  During a break I asked her was there any one thing that had made a big difference to her writing.  Enter Margie Lawson’s the EDIT system.  This logical, practical edit system shows things in your writing you might otherwise never see.  It can be tricky to master but stick with it.
3. The simple GMC
Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, Conflict is a wonderful tool for writers and I use it before I begin a book. However, my lovely friend, Desire author Rachel Bailey gave me a shorthand version that I keep ‘front and centre’ whilst I write.  Why not this woman for this man and why not this man for this woman?  So simple, yet so useful.
4. Emotional Order is Important
The talented Nikki Logan calls it the natural order of things, that is, how a character reacts to stimuli.  It’s important to have the order right starting with the visceral leading to the subconscious and ending with the conscious.  This is how we react in every day life. For an author, it is important to capture this on the page, or the reader may feel something is not quite right.
5. Always Finish the Book
The very first craft workshop I attended was given by the phenomenal Melanie Milburne. She taught me so many things that I’ve used everyday in the years since in developing my writing skills. One piece of advice that really made an impression was, always finish the book.  Again, sounds so simple, but without that advice I probably would have begun many different books without actually finishing them.  As she said, how do you know how to write ‘the middle’ and ‘the end’ if you’ve never done it?
Combined, these five concepts progressed my writing to a higher level.  Perhaps some of these ideas will provide other aspiring writers with that wonderful ah ha moment!

 Find Jennifer on the web:
Website                Facebook        Twitter          Author Page

Buy Her Book:

Destiny Romance              Amazon       iTunes 

The Convenient Bride
Sienna De Luca will do anything to save her family's hotel, and ruthless Italian businessman Antonio Moretti knows it. With problems of his own, he proposes a marriage of convenience and plans to use Sienna to secure his next business deal. But things don't go quite according to plan.

In keeping with her part of the bargain, Sienna travels to Venice to be with Antonio, who introduces her to a life of great luxury and opulence. As befits the fiancée of the famous Antonio Moretti, Sienna is given a new wardrobe of designer gowns and outfits and instructed exactly how to behave when out in public. But after thinking he can manipulate her at his will, Antonio begins to realise he has seriously underestimated Sienna, her intelligence, her skills, her courage – and her beauty. Unexpectedly, Sienna gets too close and when she discovers his dark secret, Antonio's perfectly planned life begins to unravel.

I will be giving a Kindle copy of The Convenient Bride to one lucky commenter here today!

Denise here!

The Convenient Bride sounds fabulous.

Another book was just launched yesterday by my lovely American blogger friend Kittie Howard. Check out Kittie's site for more details. Kittie just told me that Rings is already Amazon #24,486 on out-of-popular-genre-arena books. Go Kittie!

In "Rings of Trust," fear reigns along a sleepy bayou road in rural South Louisiana in 1953. The Civil Rights Movement has taken root in the consolidated South. Not everyone wants to return to the shadowed past the Ku Klux Klan espouses.

I hope you will support both authors in their new ventures!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Insecure Writers Support Group - Finish that novel!

Hello there!

It's great to be back to 'normal' posting now that my NaNo novel is finished. I have participated in NaNoWriMo for several years in a row, but this is the first time I feel really happy with the first 50,000 words of my novel. Perhaps that's something to do with the fact that it's been simmering around in my head during my 6-week hiatus in Fiji in July/August this year. As I cruised the Fiji Islands at leisure and chatted to the locals, I was always on the lookout for locations/characters for the story I knew I'd write back in Oz.

Two kava ceremonies turn up in my novel. Hard to do if I hadn't participated in a few!

Funny, I was reading yet another 'how to' book before NaNo, and it said it would be difficult to write about some places, such as Fiji, without visiting. I know what the author meant. There are so many customs, ways of thinking, histories and characters that would be difficult to find on google.

So many quirky characters, so many ceremonial dresses,
so many things to experience - and write about.

Which brings me to the point of my post today - Finish the novel.

Margaret Attwood said it, others have said it - if you don't finish your story, why are you worried about whether it'll get published or not? Similarly, if you don't ever finish anything you start, what is the point of twittering away on social media (if you have opened accounts expressly to promote yourself) if you never have anything to promote? Luckily, I just twitter away promoting other authors and places.

So insecure writers (isn't that everyone?), get that novel finished - first draft, edits, re-writes, whatever it takes, but eventually call it finished and ready to launch into the world. Hopefully, you won't have as many unfinished novels as I have, but how about we work towards at least getting one completely finished? That aside, I consider my unfinished novels the best hands-on writing course I ever did!

  • Tell me about your writing journey and aspirations. Have you finished your novel yet? Are you published?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Laura O'Connell speaks on research. Her new novel, Web of Lies is out! Lynda R Young launches Make Believe anthology!

Hello. How are you today? Thanks for coming by. I hope you noticed my Christmas greeting to you!

NaNoWriMo is over and I completed my 50,000 word novel, Fijian Princess, with an eye on the Harlequin Escape market. They're actively seeking submissions and their range is WIDE! Click HERE to read an interview with the editor. Kate Cuthbert.

Today I have two Aussie authors visiting my blog - Laura O'Connell who has just released her new book, Web of Lies, and...

My blogger friend, Lynda R Young, who is launching the anthology, Make Believe which features her story, Birthright. The anthology is published by J. Taylor Publishing. You can read full reviews on the stories at the Reader's Commute.

By clicking HERE you will access the list of bloggers hosting Lynda through this month-long tour as well as those who are supporting her today.


Now I'd like to introduce you to fellow Aussie author, Laura O'Connell. Laura has just released her novel, Web of Lies. Laura is speaking today of something dear to my heart - research, to me, the real fun part of writing a novel (yeah, I know I missed my calling!)


Hello and welcome to those who've read this far and who I hope will continue to read about what's on my mind today. 

I researched Denise’s website before I wrote this blog and discovered she has travelled throughout the world visiting lots of interesting places that she could use to add authenticity to her stories and novels. I wish I could say I’d been to Africa to do some firsthand research before I wrote African Hearts. Africa is on my list of places to visit, but it seemed my muse wanted me to write this story before I visited, so I had to find another way of finding out about this amazing country of contrasts.

Research for African Hearts started with me interviewing missionaries who’d lived and worked in Africa for several years. They were able to give me the minutiae of day to day life in an African village. I viewed YouTube video clips to get views of the landscape and I borrowed a lot of books, fiction and nonfiction, from the library on Africa and immersed myself in the country and its culture.

To understand the current affairs, I read the Ugandan newspaper online daily. This gave me a feel for the day to day issues that affected Uganda where African Hearts is set.

Throughout my life I’ve read a lot of books on Africa. I took copies of images from these books and made a collage that triggered any information I’d stored away in the deep recesses of my mind.

To save yourself some time, prepare a list of questions centred around the focal point of your novel. You need to have a fair idea of what you want to achieve by the end of the research. This will keep you on track as you find the information you need for your story. It’s easy to get side tracked and spend too much time on research, however, as your project evolves your direction of the research may change as ideas come to you. Be open to these little detours they can take you to areas you’d never considered. These are the gems of your work.

While reading, don’t get bogged down in the text. Skim first for what you think you might be looking for then drill into the specifics as information triggers your imagination.

Be aware that research can be a way of putting off writing. Keep this in the back of your mind and know when to stop researching and start writing.

My latest release, Web of Lies, is set in Sydney, Mount Tamborine and the Gold Coast. I’ve lived in all of these areas so I know them intimately. It was refreshing to have that firsthand knowledge instead of relying on the detailed research I did with African Hearts. However, research time isn’t wasted if we can find a second use for it in a later project. 

Add authenticity to your novels by leaping into research. You’ll find it’s a lot of fun and your readers will thank you for taking the time to get it right.

Thanks for reading...

About Laura O’Connell
Laura enjoys writing stories about second chances in love and life. She calls the Gold Coast home, however, her curious nature leads her on adventures to locations that surprise and inspire her. Laura has a passion for telling a good story set in places where she has lived and travelled.

Laura around the web:
Website             Facebook              Twitter        Author Page

Book Blurb – Web of Lies
High school sweethearts, Stephanie and Lachlan are torn apart by circumstance, bad decisions and a web of lies, leaving an unknown future for their son, Ryan.
Eight years later they reconnect, but the time apart has changed them. The family had made decisions based on lies and deceit and now must find a way to either reveal the truth or find another option. On the surface, their arrangements seemed flawless, but dig deeper, and the people they thought they knew aren’t as they appear.
Lachlan and Stephanie are forced to confront the consequences of their actions and the entire family is compelled to reveal the truth, find forgiveness, and renew loving one another. But the hardest decision is still to come … where does Ryan live?

Buy Links:

Amazon                  Amazon UK

I hope you enjoyed reading about Laura's ideas on research. Perhaps Web of Lies and the Make Believe anthology would be nice gifts for a lucky someone? Please leave a comment for both Laura and Lynda.

It's great to be diving into the blogosphere again! I've missed you all. I'll be around to visit you asap.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Breaking my NaNo hiatus for Bryce Courtney, author, who died last night.

Hi my friends!
Bryce Courtney

Bryce Courtney was one of my favourite authors. He was born and lived in South Africa for 17 years, then he moved to Australia where he lived for 57 years, so he always thought of himself as an Aussie and wrote so many fictional accounts of early Australian history.

Bryce started his career as an advertising high flyer, but always had stories inside him demanding to be written. He published his first book at age 55 - the inspirational saga, Power of One, one of my all-time favourites. (I was thrilled to pick up an autographed copy recently). It is a great authentic-sounding story, has breathtaking settings in the African landscape and prisons, also authentic, great themes, a chilling view of hatred and apartheid  - in other words, great power in words!

The Power of One, his debut novel, sold 12 million copies, was published in 28 languages, and was made into a movie. I don't usually like movies made from books overmuch, but even though the movie added romantic elements and some of its focus was different - that Zulu singing, Morgan Freeman's role as the boxing coach, and the beautifully-wrought characterisation of young Peekay, made it a memorable movie. I asked a friend at the time who'd escaped Zimbabwe during the civil war, whether the violence shown in the film, especially in the black settlements, was exaggerated. She replied, that no, they were understated. God help us!

Bryce went on to write 20 more books. He wrote 12 hours a day as a general rule. Not bad for a dyslexic! He was a storyteller always terrified of running out of time, but he believed strongly that we all have a use by date. Bryce's was last night.

RIP Bryce. I'm glad you got that last book published just a week ago - Jack of Diamonds. How did you do it? A new book every November just in time for Christmas! Your timing was spot on as always!

Your grateful reader,

  • We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia, but I am very thankful for Bryce Courtney and the words and worlds he created.
  • Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - Please join us! Total Eclipse of the Sun at Palm Cove.

Memoir, Fiction, Recipes, Traditions...and more

How are the holidays celebrated at your home? The blogsphere includes a multitude of countries, cultures, and citizenry of the world. There are as many ways to celebrate as there are cultures -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, Yom Kipper, Hanuka or any variety of holidays of the “giving spirit” during the same season.

In my home we celebrate Christmas as do most Australians. It is an annual celebration to mark Christ's birth (we are well aware this is not the actual time He was born), to celebrate the summer holidays, to celebrate our families and friends who may fly many kilometres to join together again, to just relax by the beach or the pool and read a book (in between eating, drinking and sharing gifts), forgetting about the demands of work -- just for a few days or weeks..

For this Holiday Spirit blogfest (open to the whole blogosphere as are all RFW blogfests), RFW is looking for excerpts of up to 800 words of fiction or non-fiction stories of family tradition, favorite/unique recipes, inspirational articles, etc.; that involve the essence of the holiday spirit.  (Recipes and news articles do not have to adhere to the 800 word limit.) In other words, we would like you to post whatever passes for the Holiday Spirit in your neck of the world. Maybe you would like to post pictures of your decorated home!

Because of the special nature of this Holiday Spirit blogfest, we are allowing up to two submissions; however, they must be in two separate categories. Meaning, you could post your favorite recipe AND an inspirational 800 word excerpt; or a link to an inspirational news/magazine article and a recipe or true story; but not two of each (two recipes, two memoir posts, two articles). If you are posting two separate submissions, please add your blog link twice and add to your name/link what it contains - eg - Donna Hole, 1, Recipe, so participants know to look for two separate posts.

The linky will open on December 12 and remain open thru December 21 to encourage linking to the direct post. However, if you decide to link then schedule a post (or two) later, just leave a comment to let everyone know when your excerpt will be available. The RFW hosts will be checking the comments and links, and if a direct link is available, we will edit your link(s) if you haven't done so. (RFW uses Inlinkz which allows you to delete your own link and add a new one.)

Please join us in celebrating life, love, presents, good food, and of course Family Traditions of all types within diverse cultures.

This is not a competition - it is a sharing. We hope we'll all get to know each other better!

Happy Holidays everyone; and best wishes for your NaNoWriMo projects. Let us know how you go.

Total Eclipse of the Sun (love that song, but we had the real thing yesterday.) Palm Cove, north of Cairns in Northern Queensland, was the best spot in the world to see it, and thousands of people arrived from all over the world to this usually empty stretch of beach to gaze at nature's wonder. Many weddings and engagements took place.

They came from all over the world to experience the total eclipse which was awesome!

Go here to experience glorious professional pictures of the eclipse which shows the wonder of it.
  • Do you know a holiday celebration that is not mentioned above? Please share in the comments.
  • Are you going to join us for this blogfest? The more the merrier.
  • If you're doing NaNo, how is it going? The halfway mark - 25,000 words yet? I'm lagging a bit...
  • Please watch for the linky announcement on December 12.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Thirty Days and Thirty Nights of Literary Abandon

Click for list...
Hello there!

Today is the day to post for Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group. This group consists of a ton of bloggers who blog about what they're struggling with, what they've learnt, what they'd like to share, or...what...ever.

I was going to miss posting today but decided to post about what I'm doing - NaNoWriMo. Not everyone agrees with the idea of whipping yourself into a writing frenzy for 30 days, and of course there are negatives as well as positives. I choose to paddle my own canoe and think it's a brilliant idea, gives me the excuse to say 'no' to many onerous commitments etc, so I'll be participating for the fifth time.

Like most things I do, I abide by my own rules. Last NaNo I spent most of the month researching the issues surrounding the Afghanistan Wars. I probably wouldn't have a fraction of that research completed except for the motivation of the month. By the end of November I had what was mainly a 50,000 word knowledge dump, but hey, that's important when you choose to write a novel with big issues that you need to get right, even if you'll never use most of it. I know Alex used a NaNo month in 2010 to work on his second Cassa novel and managed to get the words down on the page. 

And I probably never would have started my first novel, a Harlequin-style category romance, except for NaNo four years ago. I can't just concentrate on one thing at a time, so I have been busy finishing all my NaNo novels. Recently I decided to take the plunge and submit my first novel to HarlequinEscape. A few tweaks to go (which I will be doing in conjunction with writing my new novel, Fijian Princess, which I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT!) This time I have outlined, researched (well, I had to do something writerly during my 6 weeks in Fiji, lol!) and am going to start with the final chapter, work backwards, (I know how it begins and ends, but the middle will be a surprise) and hope it all comes together.

So I won't be posting often during NaNoWriMo unless something comes up that just can't wait for December. I'll be displaying my Word Meter so you can check on my progress. Failing floods, famines or pestilence (whoops, I shouldn't say that. I live in Australia, the land of natural disasters!), I will write 50,000 words of Fijian Princess and finally complete my first NaNo novel, Ruby, because, you know what--it may not seem so, but I am one very determined cookie when it comes to my writing.

Here is a link to a great list of resources to help you write a novel, courtesy of Nathan Bransford. It'll take a month to get through if you follow all the excellent links, but well worth it, especially for a debut novelist.

As Donna Hole (my co-host) and many of our members are also participating in NaNoWriMo, RomanticFridayWriters will be on hiatus as always during November. We kick off December with a Holiday Spirit blogfest. I hope some of you will join us and tell us what the holiday period means to you - traditions, recipes, celebrations...Click on the badge to learn more...the Linky will be going up soon...

I wish all participants well. I'm 'parisden' if you want to buddy up. 

Now if you have time, click the IWSG badge and read some more posts...

Monday, 29 October 2012

Song of the Humpback Whale - or 'Scientific Research'? The annual whale wars begin in the Antarctic.

Hi friends!

Sitting on the deck at the beach watching the humpback whales (Latin name  Megaptera novaeangliae - 'big-winged New Englander') take their annual migration south to the Antarctic, I wonder which of these beautiful creatures is destined to board a Japanese whaler ship bloody and battered as a 'scientific experiment' and which will swim past heading north after its annual feed in the cold Antarctic waters during  the Southern Hemisphere's summer. 

Some whales stay in the mid-Southern Ocean, while others feed at the edge of the pack ice. Their hunters understand their predictable movements, making them relatively easy prey. This annual battle is fought in the Antarctic with the Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace vessels hounding the huge Japanese refrigerated ships. Their philosophy is while the Japanese are fighting them they're leaving the whales alone. All the action is live on our television screens nightly. It's about to begin again...

Whaling has a long and cruel history. Australia itself, even though vehemently opposed to whale hunting today, only ceased to participate in the 1970s. Today it is easy to judge the Japanese who continue to claim they need to kill whales for 'scientific research' and that it's part of their culture, even though many Japanese people have joined in the global protests against this practice, claiming that tons of unwanted whale meat and by products languish in cold rooms.

According to the anti - whaling 'terrorist' Sea Shepherd captain, Canadian Paul Watson, alongside Japan, other countries and tribes continue to whale hunt. There's Norway, the Inuit in Alaska, USA, the Yupik in Siberia, Denmark, along with aboriginal groups in Canada and Iceland. 

Where there's whales there's birds aplenty.

Whaling is a topic dear to my heart. I have explored this issue in one of my novels. I found this poem for the frontispiece:

           Song of the Humpback Whale

From oceans huge with time the whales surface

and plunge in a rolling of hills. The curious soft
indigo explosion of their cries
that trail like comets in the night are heard as

trumpet-calls, submerged, sharp, shuddering,
as the spatial music of gulls, as sounds of blunt
tugs nosing mournfully through eternal mist.
It is a salt-white sorcery: they sing

of artic pilgrimage, the bleak migration
ordained by the rhythm of seasons. Buffeted
by surface storms of their known world, they flow
as we ourselves in terrible formation,

trapped each a lifetime in compelling seas,
plunging half-blinded, calling one to another
from green-scarped waves, set on divergent courses
but frozen, frozen to our destinies.

From Song of the Humpback Whales, Selected Verse by Jill Hellyer - open copyright

I am currently applying the final layer of nail polish to my first NaNo novel, Ruby, aimed at the HarlequinEscape market. This novel is a love story between a French girl, an Aussie sea captain and humpback whales. This scene is taken from Chapter Eleven where the heroine Ruby confronts a Japanese whaler. (I wanted to give both sides to the story). He addresses the diners at Ruby's hotel restaurant:

My name is Izuru Ito. I was brought up in a tiny fishing village in Japan. Everyone was involved in whaling, including my whole family. You must understand. It was our life for generations. I followed my father before me, becoming a scientist, then a whaling ship’s captain. But it was different for me.
‘My voyages to hunt the whales started my love affair with the Southern Oceans. I fell in love with the wildness, the vastness, the remoteness. The different breeds of whales–from the humpbacks to the majestic bluestook my breath away with their haunting whale songs. To hear them singing amongst the icebergs changed my life.’
The restaurant was quiet–no one lifted a knife or fork–no one swallowed–all were mesmerized by Ito's story.
‘My voyages through this great ocean overwhelmed me. There life is in its rawest, most primal form.’ 
To Ruby it was a Moby Dick tale. She leaned closer.
‘It took me many expeditions, but I came to appreciate how fragile and utterly beautiful life and the natural environment really are. Seeing whales harpooned became an ugly paradox. I had to make a choice. I chose life over death. I still hunt whales, but as an object of beauty, not prey.’
Some of the guests were dabbing their eyes. A slow clap began, picked up by everyone. Ito looked around, humbled.
‘Tomorrow will be an experience none of us will ever forget. The whales await. They are close. Tonight gave us a glimpse. Tomorrow, the conditions will be perfect. For those of you who have never seen whales up close, prepare yourself. It is a most spiritual moment.’ He gave them the thumbs up. ‘Thank you for listening to my story.’ 
He stood and bowed politely.
And was gone.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Halloween House of Horrors - Is there love beyond the grave?

My entry for the RomanticFridayWriters Halloween House of Horrors is taken from Chapter Three of my WIP, a 16,000 word ghost story novella, Paradise Can Wait, set in Afghanistan and the US in 2009. The protagonist, Delbar, has lost her husband Alam in the ongoing war against the Taliban. She has escaped her country, but can she escape the dead? 

As I am seeking publication for this story, I would appreciate all feedback.


Trick or Treat?

The flames of the fire flickered and died. The room plunged into darkness. The chandelier's crystal droplets clinked against the draft that crept into the room like a stealthy ghost. Trees moaned against the walls, a lament of damned souls.

A white flare fizzed through the room.
Delbar leaped from her chair in front of the fire. Rough hands clamped her mouth. Her arms wrenched behind her. She was thrown onto the couch where she lay on her back, juddering with terror.

Damp enveloped her in a watery cloak. What is this? Water boarding?  My hiding place discovered so soon? 
She struggled to see her assailant through the dark shadows…she saw no one…then…a kaleidoscope of color swirled at the top of the staircase. It spilled onto the stairs like molten metal tipped from a cauldron. Colored shadows glinted as the liquid dripped downwards, then puddled at the bottom of the stairs.

Mmmh...mmmh…ughh...” Delbar fought against the invisible hand that pressed her lips together. Water continued to drip. Blinking through the damp, she stared at the man who arose fully formed from the puddle–face…limbs…body…hair…clothes. The garments were bright white as if lit from within–baggy trousers, tunic, turban.

“Yaa Ilaahee!”*
Delbar struggled against the invisible ropes. She jerked from side to side, moaning. Abruptly the binds loosed, the dripping stopped and she could speak.

“Al…am? Is…you..?” Water dribbled from her mouth. She brushed her hand across her face. “No. You are dead! You died in the mountains! The Taliban killed you… I’m dreaming…why was my mouth stopped and my arms tied…why did water nearly drown me? Why..? Why..?”

He stepped forwards, knees high, like he waded to shore from a turbulent ocean. He stopped a few meters from her. Delbar smelt rosewater and spices, the strong scents of her homeland. Hair escaped from under his turban, long and lustrous. The gray streaks in his beard had gone as had the scars on his hands from that hideous time when he’d been imprisoned and tortured during the Mujahedeen wars.

“So you could feel me die.”

‘That was cruel…I feared…for my life.” She reached for the rug that had fallen from her shoulders, dabbed her mouth then hugged the soft wool to her chest and sobbed.

 “But you live. I’ve been waiting. So long. You’re here. I need you to trust this.” He pointed to his body. “See me. Your Alam?”

She turned away.


She spoke to the room. “I’m dreaming, I know. What I see isn’t real. My husband is dead. He’s in Paradise. A demon uses a husband’s body to trick a wife.”

“Delbar. It is me. Look. This is no dream. I drowned. The portal opened, the angels came. I turned back. I was to enter the Door, but I answered, no, I’m not ready for Paradise.”

Daabí Ashkun!”**  She clamped her hands over her ears.

“My Paradise is being with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits you. If it is indeed you? My Alam would obey the angels. Go to your reward.” She pointed to the door.

“My reward is to be with you.”

“No. Jannah awaits the righteous.”

“The things I’ve done were not righteous. I’ve no business in Paradise with killers of women and children. Scoundrels like me deserve to wander the earth, hungry, never satisfied.”

“A soldier under orders obeys orders. You tried to ease the suffering of the Afghani people. Go to your blissful, happy life.”

“My blissful, happy life is here. In my new body. You need me…”

“I need Alam, but not this way. Continue your journey.”

“My journey ends here.”

“No. Leave. This is a trick. Go back to the portal if you are man, not demon.”

He dropped to his knees as if shot. “Let me stay. One night?”

Dreamy sensations flowed through her as she floated into a fantastical world. He has cast some spell over me. A spell that holds me entranced. Her heart cried out for Alam. A tidal wave of power suffused her–where before she was weak, now she was strong–where before she had mourned, now her heart danced.
Alam is here!

He saw her thoughts.

He reached down, tore the rug from her hands. He stroked her shoulder, testing her–chilly hands, icy fingers. He sat on the edge of the couch. Embraced her.  Pressed her warm flesh against his coldness. Oh, the chill! Icy lips found hers. 

Water rushed down her throat–spurted out her nose–her eyes filled–overflowed. She panicked. Pulled away.


She cried. Scrubbed her face with the rug.

“Relax,” he said, “Control your fear. The drowning sensation will vanish. I promise.”

“Who are you? Which demon has stolen Alam’s body?”

I am your Alam.” He kissed her again. “My precious wife.” His garments disappeared as if by magic. Naked, he covered the length of her warm human flesh with his otherworldly coldness.

 “I am so cold. The fire...” she said.

“This new body has an enemy–fire.” He turned and blew into the fireplace. Flames lit up the space. “But I can try to bear it…for you, my love.”

Her heart leaped into the flood of pleasure offered by his arms. Do I care whether he is dead or undead, cold or warm, ghost or demon?
They lay side by side. Stroke for stroke they sought remembrance of times past…but...something jarred...
Delbar felt it creep along her nape. Something frightening, more frightening than what she’d already experienced. She sensed absolute evil.
Too late she saw the malevolent glint in eyes turned red. The beautiful face melted into a hideous mask. The body bunched, the back humped, hands curled into claws that raked her face. Pain stole her breath. The mass twisted into a formless black that blasted putrid air over her like a toxic cloud. Hands forced her arms behind her back. Filthy water poured down her throat. Life squeezed from her.
The flames flickered…and died.


* Yaa Ilaahee! (Oh my God!)

** Daabí Ashkun!”* (No!)


***L'Aussie Image edited in

WORDS: 986

If you'd like to add your Halloween story/poem to the list, submit in the right top sidebar or wherever you find the linky until October 21 AEST.

This challenge is being judged by venerable bloggers, Ann Best and Nas Dean, who are on a quest to find the Featured Writer.